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Andy Tudor On Project Cars 2's Evolving Tracks, Career & VR Support

Or why they can't promise PSVR.

It was a nice little surprise for me, to find myself playing Project Cars 2 earlier this week, having been invited to a multi-game showcase without knowing that the game would be there. After all, it was only announced on Wednedsay, just a few hours before I could sit down and play it! You can read my early thoughts or see it in action here.

The thing is that development actually started a long time ago, and we knew that Project Cars 2 was “greenlit”, that it was funded, and that it wanted to add more disciplines since 2014. That put quite a few noses out of joint, making for a good starting point when we sat down to talk to Creative Director Andy Tudor.

TSA: This isn’t really the first time that you’ve announced Project Cars 2, is it? You had the crowdfunding campaign, and it was unusual to say the least to have this happen, I think it was six weeks after the first game had come out?

Andy Tudor: Absolutely, it caused a bit of a stir! But to break the fourth wall down, when you want to start a game, you need to have money to pay developers and all that stuff. The usual method for that is that you go to your publisher and say you’d like to make a sequel, that the first game sold well, and they give you the money. The first you then hear about it is when it turns up on stage at E3, but actually, if you roll back time, the team have been working on it since almost as soon as the last game finished.

With crowdfunding, we don’t ahve the luxury of going to a publisher like that, and therefore you need to start the process at day one. Because the first game was doing so well at launch with great reviews, and because it was selling a lot, there was definitely going to be a sequel because we’ve got a lot of stuff we want to get to, and therefore we announced the crowdfunding straight away. Of course, people went, “Wait, what?!”

TSA: Yeah, I guess you needed to make it clear that it didn’t mean you were going to stop developing on the first game.

Andy: Yeah, the fear was that we were abandoning the first title just to work on this, but we were like, “No, no. We’ve got a year’s worth of content for you guys.” That culminated in the Game of the Year edition, the Oculus Rift edition and things like that.

So we were very clear, I thought, but obviously it’s very different for people to see behind the scenes of this stuff. People needed to be educated a little bit on that stuff.

TSA: So, there were lots of nice big numbers in this announcement, but the one that interest me more is LiveTrack 3.0, which isn’t the biggest of these numbers. What does it actually mean, though? How does it take things beyond what you had before?

Andy: Yeah, so the biggest thing is that on the previous game, you could do a qualifying session on the Saturday and the track would be identical on the Sunday race. Actually, in real life when you go to Silverstone, you go to Brands Hatch, or whatever, on Saturday it’s pristine and gorgeous, but when it goes to the Sunday race, there’s crap all over it, and even if they’ve brushed bits away, the track itself has got bits of rubber embedded in the track from all the racing that’s happened. The actual grip level of the track is very, very different, and you may go faster or slower depending on which part of the track you’re on.

So this idea of persistence, that over a race weekend the track is evolving, the fact that you can go off the track and drag gravel back onto the track, that we’ve added fluid dynamics so that rain fills up and oversaturates the track and starts creating puddles. In the first Project Cars, if it started raining and you’re further down the track than me, it starts raining for both of us, but now it can be raining for you and that cloud hasn’t actually reached me yet.

TSA: I guess that particular instance can make the biggest difference on some of the huge tracks like Spa, which you always hear about in commentary.

Andy: Exactly. It also means that when it dries, parts of the track will have brilliant drainage and be completely dry, but other parts will be terrible. You can have the situation where it’s dry, but half the track is covered in puddles, so now you’ve got better gameplay, you’ve got deeper strategy and tactics where you’re thinking, “Do I stay out on my wet tyres and gain an advantage in puddles? Or do I switch to dry tyres and have this hazard to avoid?”

The LiveTrack stuff means that the more you go over the track, the more you create a dry line, a dynamic one. It’s as crazy as when the sun hits the grass, then the grass raises temperature. It’s insane, right? It means that the track is this ever evolving world, and that’s the biggest change.

TSA: You talked about the different grip levels, and from today’s ice track, it feels like you might be big fans of ice skating?

Andy: Ha! Yeah, in the first game, there were limitations technically on what we could do over the levels of grip that the tyre had. Therefore, sliding and recovering after things had got a bit wobbly was very difficult, and now we’ve fixed that. We’ve got an enhanced tyre model that allows that, and we’ve also got this loose surface stuff now, which means going sideways is entirely possible 90% of the time now. We needed to address it just for the tarmac based racing anyway, but it’s also a requirement of the new motorsports and new surfaces.

TSA: I’d love to see the actual rallying in mud and gravel. I didn’t get on so well with the ice.

Andy: In the demo you experienced just now, it’s harder than in real life. In real life, I can drift a car one handed whilst talking to you in a very casual way.

TSA: I mean, who’s to say that’s not what we’re doing right now? [laughs]

Andy: And you would be able to do the same, so it’s not me going “I’m wicked”, it’s actually very easy. In the game it’s a little too hard, and that’s one thing that we, having just done it in real life a week ago, that’s one thing that we’re fine tuning.

TSA: One thing that does help with that believability and feeling of control is obviously VR. You’ve said there would be VR support from launch, but does that mean PSVR? Can you talk about that?

Andy: Um, we made the mistake before of saying the game was coming to Wii U, and it’s the same situation here. We love the PSVR; we’re all gadget freaks and we love VR because it makes you a better driver, but there are still challenges that come with it and we don’t really want to put out a light version of the game. When we launched on Oculus Rift, it was the full game, as opposed to what other games do where there’s VR versions and trimmed down versions.

We see how good it is and we do actually want to get it on there, but there’s a balance between out vision of the game and all the stuff that is required to really push that vision, versus what is acceptable and what the customers will actually like. Trying to find that balance is something we’re investigating at the moment, but by no means put it in your calendar. Behind closed doors, we’re working extremely hard on it, because it’s a really desirable thing.

TSA: Some of the expectation comes from needing to have that 60fps and seeing that you’re there or there abouts with the first game, so there’s that hope.

Andy: Yeah, and the boost mode we’ve just seen on the PS4 Pro is encouraging, but we don’t know whether that’s allowed, whether Sony will change their minds… We don’t really want to talk about it much, because it gives people too much hope!

TSA: One for me. Can I have warm tyres when coming out of the pits during a practice session, please? That was one of my bugbears with the first game, that I want to learn the track, but I’m skating around on cold tyres instead. I can’t remember if you added that in later on, actually.

Andy: [laughs] Uh, our time trials definitely had up to temperature tyres, but part of the persistence is that… well, I can’t go into it! [laughs]

Almost, almost! The more beers I have, the more secrets start to come out!

TSA: I should have asked for a later interview! [laughs]

Andy: So, strategy, tuning and setups are all things we’re going to talk about in the future.

TSA: The career structure was something I really liked in the first game, letting you just dive into what you want. I assume you’re sticking with that kind of structure here?

Andy: Yeah, so the actual tier structure and the concept of the tiers – grassroots, rookie motorsports leading up to the biggest and fastest motorsports – that remains, but there are more motorsports in there.

The concept of getting a contract with a team is still in there, but the actual calendar interface is completely streamlined now. So if you now get an invitation as a reward, you can now play that at any time, as opposed to it being embedded in the calendar and you having to wait. They’re rewards so we want you to play them again and again.

There is a brand new thing coming to career that I can’t talk about now that gives you… a kind of different path through the career. We’ve tripled the number of lifetime goals, so there’s triple the number of endings you can get, so if you want to win the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indi 500 and the Le Mans 24 hour, we’ve now added the Triple Crown in there.

TSA: Finally, you’ve got esports in the game from day one, but how do you think your philosophy differs from Polyphony’s take on this?

Andy: Well, not just those guys, but also other companies. So if you look at Forza and how they’re doing esports, they do short seasons that only last a couple of weeks and you win a car. That’s not esports, that a competition. Polyphony’s view is a very accredited, very corprorate way of doing this. They’re taking something like F1 and recreating it in virtual form. Formula E is spending millions of pounds on one off events.

None of these are esports, right? That’s long seasons with young kids in teams with live streamed games, ranking up ladders, building towards the playoffs, the quarter finals, the semi finals and the finals. You’re telling this great story along the way, generating fandom and getting them to follow them on twitter, watch them when they stream scrim games, and things like that. That’s what esports is.

If you watch any of the current stuff, there’s not really a storyline. The guy who won in Formula E, good for him, he’s a brilliant driver, but where am I going to see him next? Will he win the next one? I don’t really know. There’s no consistency. So our method is to do what esports truly is. We don’t have our drivers wearing expensive race suits, because they’re kids that can’t afford that, they can afford jerseys. So that’s our mentality.

Thanks a lot to Andy for chatting with us. You can read our early impressions of Project Cars 2, or see it in action in our hands on video. The game is planned for release later this year.

  1. CarBoyCam
    Since: Sep 2009

    I really hope that with pCARS 2 they iron out the gimmicks and exploits which were used in the Time Attack series we (TSA Racing) entered. However after a couple of rounds we stopped doing it due to assists and hammering down the gearbox being the quickest way round a track.

    Backed this, I’m an AI character in the game again (Cameron Brewster) so we’ll see how it goes!

    Comment posted on 12/02/2017 at 11:45.
  2. JesseDeya
    Since: Jan 2010

    Good interview, interesting to hear him talk about parts of the game being harder (at the moment) than real life. I’ve often thought that about some sims, where catching or controlling drift seems unnecessarily particular and lacks feel or progression.

    Racing in VR has made that even more self evident, and Assetto Corsa shines in that regard.

    Comment posted on 13/02/2017 at 23:31.
Project Cars 2
  • Developer:Slightly Mad Studios
  • Publisher:Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Platforms:PS4, XBO, PC
  • Release Date:Late 2017

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